************ Sermon on 1 Timothy 2:1-8 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 8, 2011
1 Timothy 2:1-8
"Prayers for Kings and Those in Authority"
Let me begin by quoting from the proclamation made by President Obama:
Prayer has played an important role in the American story and in shaping our Nation's leaders. President Abraham Lincoln once said, "I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for the day" ... The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once prayed at the kitchen table, saying, "Lord, I have nothing left. I have nothing left. I have come to the point where I can't face it alone" ...With this in mind, let us turn to Scripture.
It is thus fitting that, from the earliest years of our country's history, Congress and Presidents have set aside days to recognize the role prayer has played in so many definitive moments in our history. As we observe the National Day of Prayer, let us follow the example of President Lincoln and Dr. King ...
I The Priority of Prayer (vs 1a)
"I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone" (1 Tim 2:1). Notice that phrase "first of all." Paul is giving Timothy and the church in Ephesus instruction on worship. "First of all" indicates that prayer is very important in the public worship of the church. It should never be a mere afterthought. Prayer should have priority. I saw a bumper sticker which put this very well: Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?
The first Christians give us a wonderful example to follow. Do you remember what the book of Acts says about them?
(Acts 2:42) They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
(Acts 4:31) After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
We need to also keep in mind the example of the apostles. Why was the office of Deacon established? So the apostles could give their "attention to prayer and the ministry of the word" (Acts 6:4).
It is sad to see how prayer has lost importance in many churches. Ruth and I attended a megachurch on one of our vacations just to check out the competition. More time was spent on the announcements than on prayer. And, the prayer was so vague and so general that it bordered on being meaningless. Not a single person was mentioned by name. Which, I suppose, highlights one of the problems of being part of a megachurch.
It is also distressing to see and hear how pastors spend hours preparing their sermons, but never prepare their public prayers. Consequently, their prayers are routine, humdrum, and repetitious. I am not suggesting that a pastor write out every word and read it, but he should think through what he will pray about. I, for instance, spend at least half an hour before every service thinking about and preparing for my prayers.
But church members also need to be prepared to pray. Our hearts must be right with God and with each other. We must want to pray, and not pray simply to be seen and heard by men (as did the Pharisees, Mt 6:5), or to fulfill a religious duty.
II The Variety of Prayer (vs 1b)
"I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone" (1 Tim 2:1). There are at least seven different Greek words for "prayer," and four of them are used here.
"Requests." Someone has a need and requests prayer for that need. "Please pray for me," is a request I hear often.
"Prayers." This is the most common term for this activity. Its focus is on its sacredness. We are praying to God. Therefore, prayer should be done with reverence and awe. Don't forget, prayer is an act of worship, and not just an expression of our wants and needs.
"Intercession." This same word can mean an interview or a meeting with someone. It suggests that we enjoy fellowship and conversation with God. That we can talk with Him as a Friend.
"Thanksgiving." Giving thanks should always be part of our worship and prayer. We not only give thanks for answered prayer, but especially for Who God is and what He, out of grace, does. We should not simply add our thanksgiving to the end of a selfish, self-centered prayer. Thanksgiving should be an important ingredient in all of our prayers. In fact, sometimes we need to imitate David and present to God only thanksgiving with no petitions at all (cf Ps 103).
III The Objects of Prayer (vs 1c-2a)
A "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone--for kings and all those in authority (1 Tim 2:1-2).
We notice two objects of prayer. First of all, we are to pray "for everyone." Meaning what? Meaning that no person on earth is outside the influence of believing prayer.
Permit me a digression for a moment. There are groups, like the Mormons and Roman Catholics, who pray for the dead. But that is not what Paul has in mind here. Paul has in mind the living. We are to pray for the living.
We are to pray "for everyone." This means we should pray for the unsaved and the saved, for people near us and people far away, for enemies as well as friends. Think of Jesus' prayer on the cross – He prayed for the forgiveness of those who crucified Him (Lk 23:34).
Before Paul converted to the Christian faith he was a Pharisee. (Phil 3:5). As a Pharisee, Paul prayed only for Israel. But now that he is a Christian, his prayers are far more encompassing.
Pray "for everyone." Of course, we cannot pray for everybody in the world by name, but we certainly ought to pray for those we know and know about.
B Secondly, we are specifically told to pray "for kings and all those in authority" (1 Tim 2:2). Godless Emperor Nero was on the throne at that time. Under this emperor Paul was shortly going to be killed by beheading. Yet, Paul tells Timothy and the believers of Ephesus to pray for Nero – and others like him. In other words, we are to pray for our rulers even when we don't agree with them. Even when we cannot respect the men or women in authority, we must respect their offices and pray for them.
IV The Reasons for Prayer (vs 2b-4)
A "[Pray] for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim 2:2-4).
Why are we to pray "for everyone" and "for kings and all those in authority"?
Here is the first reason: "that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness" (1 Tim 2:2). "Peaceful" refers to our inner spirit. "Quiet" refers to the circumstances around us.
Pray for the governing authorities so "that we may live peaceful and quiet lives." Pray that inside and outside things may be quiet and peaceful. Why? Think of Barabbas and the zealots. They could only think of insurrection and revolution. Their one consuming passion was to kick the Romans out of the Promised Land. Needless to say, they did not pray for peace and quiet. Furthermore, the early church was constantly under opposition and persecution. So it was wise to pray for those in authority that things might be peaceful and quiet.
Paul reminds us that we need peace and quiet for godliness and holiness. We need peace and quiet to concentrate on God and the things of God. It is hard to pray and to grow in the Christian faith when things around us are in turmoil – either because of persecution or because of revolution. Along the same line, Mother Teresa once observed, "God rarely is found in the midst of noise and restlessness; instead, He is the friend of silence."
B Here is the second reason we need to pray for everyone: "This is good" (1 Tim 2:3). The word "good" is used often by Paul in his letters to Timothy and Titus (1 Tim. 1:8, 18; 2:3; 3:1, 7, 13; 4:4, 6; 5:4, 10, 25; 6:12–13, 18–19; 2 Tim. 1:14; 2:3; 4:7; Titus 2:7, 14; 3:8, 14). The Greek word emphasizes the idea of something being good in and of itself, not just good in its effects. "Fair" and "beautiful" are synonyms. Prayer, in and of itself, is a good practice.
C The third reason we need to pray for everyone: "This ... pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (2 Tim 1:3-4).
Prayer pleases God. It pleases the Father when His children pray as He has commanded them to. The Pharisees prayed in order to be praised by men (Mt 6:5) or to impress other worshipers (Lk 18:9-14). True Christians pray in order to please God.
Prayer pleases God. This suggests that we must pray in the will of God, because it does not please the Father when we pray selfishly (James 4:1-10; 1 Jn 5:14-15). What is God's will? The salvation of lost souls, for one thing. God wants us to pray for the salvation of those who do not know Him. When we do, when we pray according to God's will, God is pleased.
V The Basis for Prayer (vs 5-7)
"For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men--the testimony given in its proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle--I am telling the truth, I am not lying--and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles" (1 Tim 2:5-7).
Many believers do not realize that prayer that pleases God is based on the work of Jesus Christ as Savior and Mediator.
Do you remember Job's complaint? Job correctly realized that the trials in his life came from God. So he offered this complaint:
(Job 9:32-34) "[God] is not a man like me that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court. (33) If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both, (34) someone to remove God's rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more."Job wanted, Job needed, a Mediator, an Umpire, an Advocate.
Jesus not only is the Mediator, He is the perfect Mediator between us and God. He is both God and man. In His perfect life and substitutionary death, He met all the demands of God's perfect Law. It is because Jesus "gave himself as a ransom for all men" (1 Tim 2:6) that we can pray for the salvation of all men.
VI The Posture/Attitude of Prayer (vs 8)
A Let me end with the posture or attitude of prayer. Paul writes, "I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing" (1 Tim 2:8). We know that both men and women prayed in the early church (1 Cor 11:4-5), but the emphasis here is on the men. Men, of course, are the leaders of the home and the church. If the men do not pray, neither the home nor the church will have the kind of leaders that are pleasing in God's sight.
B It was customary for Jewish men to pray with their arms extended and their hands open to heaven. Actually, there are many other prayer postures also found in the Bible: standing with outstretched hands (1 Kings 8:22); kneeling (Dan. 6:10); standing (Luke 18:11); sitting (2 Sam. 7:18); bowing the head (Gen. 24:26); lifting the eyes (John 17:1); falling on the ground (Gen. 17:3). The important thing is not the posture of the body but the posture of the heart.
C Paul states two essentials for prayer. The first is "holy hands." Since "clean hands" is symbolic of a blameless life (2 Sam 22:21; Ps 24:4), what Paul has in mind is a holy life. If we have open and uncon-fessed sin in our life, we cannot pray and expect God to answer (Ps 66:18).
Subtopic: Causes of Failure in
Title: Secret Sin Blocks Prayer
In his book "Why Prayers Are Unanswered," John Lavender retells a story about Norman Vincent Peale.
When Peale was a boy, he found a big, black cigar, slipped into an alley, and lit up. It didn't taste good, but it made him feel very grown up ... until he saw his father coming. Quickly he put the cigar behind his back and tried to be casual.
Desperate to divert his father's attention, Norman pointed to a billboard advertising the circus. "Can I go, Dad? Please, let's go when it comes to town." His father's reply taught Norman a lesson he never forgot. "Son," he answered quietly but firmly, "never make a petition while at the same time trying to hide a smoldering disobedience."
-- Kirk Russel, DeForest, Wisconsin. Leadership, Vol. 4, no. 4.
The second essential is "without anger or disputing." Quite often men's hands are lifted up in anger. They are lifted up as clenched fists rather than as open hands. In order to pray we need to be at peace with one another. A person who is constantly having trouble with other believers, who is a troublemaker rather than a peacemaker, cannot pray and get answers from God.
I started this message with our President pointing to Lincoln. So, let me end with a story about Lincoln:
Title: ASKING FOR HIS STRENGTH
A visitor to the White House when Lincoln was president was with Lincoln for three weeks as his guest. One night, soon after the Battle of Bull Run, this visitor could not sleep. Suddenly he heard a low voice proceeding from the room where the president slept. He got up and walked toward the door, which was partly open. Then he saw the president kneeling before an open Bible. The light was turned low, and the president's back was to the door; he did not know that he was being overheard. In piteous and solemn tones the president was praying: "Thou God that heard Solomon in the night when he prayed and cried for wisdom, hear me! I cannot lead this people. I cannot guide the affairs of this nation without Thy help. I am poor and weak...O God, Thou didst hear Solomon when he cried for wisdom--hear me and save this nation." ("Choice Illus." W.W. Clay pg 57-58)
So tonight, following the example of Lincoln and obeying the command to God, we are gathered for prayer.
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